Universities are helping to shape future generations and the direction which the world is moving in. Students need to learn the necessary tools and skills to enter the workforce. It is these skills that drive the world forward, both academically and professionally. For this reason, universities must ensure the highest quality of education possible for their students. To achieve this, we need cooperation between the administration, lecturers, tutorial teachers, and students—we need everybody. Read our quality of education policies and join the conversation.

A hands-on approach to improving the UVA

What will 020 change to improve the quality of education?

1

Blind Grading

020 wants blind grading to be implemented during exams, to avoid biases connected a student’s identity. By connecting exams solely to a student number, we can safeguard the integrity of the grading process.

2

Course Evaluations 2.0

The data that the University gathers from its students’ feedback is what is driving the UvA forward. To that end, we propose two different ways the University can update its course evaluation process and enhance its quality.

3

Flex Studying

Due to increased pressure on students during the pandemic, 020 proposes to expand the flex-studying pilot programme. In doing so, the UvA can provide its students precisely with the flexibility they so desperately need right now.

Blind Grading

The Problem

The University of Amsterdam and its student body would benefit greatly from a grading process devoid of all individual bias. However, not all courses use a blind grading process and fully disconnect a student’s work from their person.

By reading a name on an exam sheet, graders might unconsciously change the way they grade. While these biases may not pose a problem to some, they can be problematic for others. Biases can lead to increases or decreases in grades irrespective of the quality of work.

Even though 020 does not think the UvA is harbouring conscious biases, an effort should be made to eradicate those of an unconscious nature as well. These can be caused by numerous reasons such as teachers’ ideas about a student’s previous test score, ethnicity, work ethic, or ideology. Especially during exams, the University doesn’t have to take that risk.

The Solution

020 Beliefs that it is necessary to put in place a blind grading system to ensure fair grading for exams. It is not necessary for a grader to assign an exam to a certain name. Therefore, the exams should only be connected to student numbers instead.

This would take most of the unconscious biases out of the equation. Blind grading would make the student’s identity unknown, thereby making the relationship between the grader and the student irrelevant. Yet, because exams are still connected to a student number the University can still track down any fraud or irregularity. As such, blind grading would solve most identity based unconscious biases while maintaining the integrity of the grading process.

It is also important to note that the infrastructure for blind grading is already present on Canvas. This function is integrated into Canvas SpeedGrader, which provides an option to hide the student submission details. This function is already used by numerous universities and is recommended by the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. As such, the intensive use of Canvas for examinations during the pandemic would not pose an issue.

Interested in the way 020 will implement these quality of education policies and what the costs of that will be?
Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!

Course Evaluations 2.0

The Problem

Currently, the UvA course evaluation comes in the shape of the UvA Q method, focussing on 5 quality criteria. However, to generate useable data it is important that a large portion of the students fills out these forms and that they do so candidly.

020 believes that just sending an email with the form will lead to many students neglecting to fill it in, or that simply sending the form may lead to a lower quality of responses due to students just trying to get the evaluation form over with. Therefore, we think that the UvA is missing out on valuable information regarding the quality of courses, and which areas can be improved upon.

The University encounters another risk in the form of who fills out the form and who does not. When there is no incentive for everybody to fill out the form, it becomes likely that only those with complaints about the course will do so. As such, the teachers might miss out on the things they are doing right and unintentionally change things that were good, to begin with.

The Solution

The solution 020 proposes is twofold. First, it is important to smoothen out the evaluation process and encourage students to fill out the forms as honestly and comprehensively as they can. Second, especially during the pandemic, the University needs to keep a finger on the pulse during the course to maintain its quality of education.

In-Class Evaluation

Often the most valuable educating moments are peer-to-peer discussions. Hence, 020 proposes to allocate time during tutorials at the end of each period to evaluate and discuss the course quality in-class. By letting the students discuss the quality of the lectures and teachers with each other, they can help each other remember different aspects of the course while simultaneously motivating each other through discussing shared experiences. Some studies, such as Psychology, already successfully use such an evaluation process. Consequently, the UvA only has to copy those structures and implement them across the board.

Of course, University and the teachers still need to process the data to start analysing and comparing. As such, the students should still fill out the forms at the end of the discussion. Only now, the data quality will be higher because students have actively engaged with thinking and formulating their ideas and evaluations.

Half-Way Evaluation

020 proposes another way of evaluating courses specifically designed to solve current challenges related to the pandemic. Normally, students fill out the evaluations forms at the end of the course. However, during the pandemic the University and its staff are constantly learning how to approach an ever-changing situation. As such, it is valuable to evaluate the course already half-way through so changes can still be made. This is both beneficial for the students and the teachers. The students benefit since their opinions can have a tangible effect on a course. The teachers benefit because it provides them with some clarity as to what is going right and wrong during these times.

Of course, 020 recognizes that it is not feasible for the UvA to change complete course structures half-way through. As such, we propose to have the half-way evaluations focus mainly on teaching methods. Meaning they focus on things such as slides, question opportunities, and the structure of the lesson. In doing so, these evaluations will help the teachers to navigate the new realm of online teaching and provide a structure for students to explain what is going well and what is not.

Interested in the way 020 will implement these quality of education policies and what the costs of that will be?
Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!

Flex Studying

The Problem

The UvA currently has a flex-studying pilot programme. Thereby the University provides students with the opportunity to study on a pay-per-course basis. However, while many could benefit from this programme, it does not extend beyond a few courses

A lot of students need to support themselves financially and balance a full-time academic program with a part-time job. Especially during the pandemic, it is crucial that the UvA starts accommodating to the unique circumstances that students are encountering.

Furthermore, for many international students that want to move home, it means moving to a completely different time zone. Other students now need to care for elderly relatives, or younger siblings as their parents continue to work. To all those students that face these obstacles, it would be beneficial to extend the pilot programme.

The Solution

020 proposes to rapidly the flex-studying pilot towards more studies to tackle the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Currently, there are only 10 bachelor programmes and only 12 master programmes incorporated in the pilot. In doing so, the University would provide many students with the necessary opportunities to adapt to the current situation.

By implementing flex-studying to a wide array of programmes, it will allow students to cope with the additional stresses imposed by the pandemic, encourage them to discover new academic possibilities, help them in their time-management, and fine-tune their academic discipline and self-efficiency.

Additionally, new students that could not partake in the traditional open-house events can benefit from flex studying. They will be more inclined to try out many courses from different degrees before settling on the study that suits them best. Especially as other Universities such as the University of Utrecht or Tilburg are already doing this, the UvA must remain an attractive option.

Interested in the way 020 will implement these quality of education policies and what the costs of that will be?
Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!